After the joys of L’Os a Moelle and the warm glow it left behind we went to the Michelin-starred Les Fables de la Fontaine in Paris. Set in a pretty courtyard close to the Fountain near Ecole Militaire first impressions are of a quite masculine, chic eatery. Staff are very welcoming on a cold evening and forgiving of poor French. Our waiter helped interpret some of the items on the menu before we opted for the taster menu lucky dip. At €75 this is pretty comparable with most U.K. taster menus and a lower cost than going a la carte. Interestingly too there is quite a narrow wine selection all served by the glass or carafe. I don’t know if there is a mammoth bible that comes out on request but I was quite pleased at the narrower selection.
The amuse bouche was a smart wooden pot of chopped sea bream and sea bass, slightly spiced and topped with a fennel-tasting cream.
It was accompanied by a splendid cheese choux bun. I particularly enjoyed the tiny spoon which has a hook at lean it elegantly on the side of the pot – its all about the detail.
We were asked about allergies before we started and presumably this allowed for the oysters we started with. I confess to absolutely adoring oysters in virtually and format. They came here in two ways. The first which had a slightly sweet foam on top of it was probably the finest I have every had! If they brought out the remaining 11 from the douzaine I would happily have slurped down the lot. My wife and daughter, who are oyster sceptics, both enjoyed too. The other oyster was soused in a soy dressing which was tasty but was always second best. I think this picture sums up that we liked the oysters very much.
The next dish was red mullet and was an interesting comparison with my dish from the L’Os a Moelle. It was again served on a sweet bed – this time slightly subtler and possibly with a hint of something else as well as onion but the portion was scale with the fish. And what a fish. It must have cooked in seconds but somehow it had a delightful golden crispiness. Nothing could have highlighted the difference between the two menus – it’s about refinement not love.
Pollock came next – a pretty white block of it served with a selection of lightly pickled or steamed vegetables with a smear of beetroot and blobs of delicious garlic cream. The whole effect was magnified by a glorious pink plate.
Next up was one of my favourites – slow cooked beef cheek with a carrot mash and a steamed carrot. The piece of cheek was magnificent in all its gooey, fatty, unctuousness and I could have eaten it with a teaspoon. The glorious winey sauce glistened and the mash was silky smooth. Its one of those dishes where you don’t need to say anything – just look at the smiles around the table.
As we moved on to dessert the first up was a little surprise – a poached pear with tarragon, some chocolate wafer shards and a small quenelle of praline ice cream. I’m not a fan of poached pear but the quality of the pear and the balance of the dish was outstanding – not too sweet and enough room for the pear to make its mark. The ice cream was outstanding and the tarragon cream in the heart of the pear worked well.
We thought we’d finished but there was still time for another standout dish which is best described as a lemon meringue pie. The base was a fabulous biscuit which has a real crunch to it but was very light to eat and had a lovely fresh toastiness to it. On top were some lemon curd blobs interspersed with soft meringue. In the heart of it was a stunningly good lemon sorbet.
This sounds like a lot but the portions are very sensible and there is a nice pace to the service which keeps things moving while leaving time for some contemplation.
The meal came to around €130 per head with wine – by no means an everyday event but it was fabulous cooking and I’d happily do it all again when my bank balance allows. It reminded me very much of The Cross in Kenilworth, another Michelin 1 star restaurant with a very strong French cookery tradition. There are no pyrotechnics or food chemistry here (or if there are they are team players rather than star strikers) just really solid classical cooking with stunningly good ingredients treated with care.